Bulgarian police are investigating the rape, beating and slaying of a television reporter whose body was dumped near the Danube River after she reported on the possible misuse of European Union funds in Bulgaria.
Authorities discovered the body of 30-year-old Viktoria Marinova on Saturday in the northern town of Ruse near the Romanian border. Police said she had been strangled and her body was found in a park near the river.
Marinova was a director of TVN, a small TV station in Ruse, and a TV presenter for two investigative programs.
Journalists’ groups and foreign officials, including Harlem Desir, the media freedom representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, demanded a “full and thorough investigation” into Marinova’s death. A Bulgarian investigative online media site went even further, calling for an independent international inquiry, saying that a Bulgarian probe could be compromised by corrupt Bulgarian officials.
But Interior Minister Mladen Marinov said Monday there was no evidence to suggest the killing was linked to Marinova’s work.
“It is about rape and murder,” he said.
Bulgarian police, however, said they are considering all possible scenarios and examining possible links to her personal and professional life.
Corruption is endemic in Bulgaria, a Balkan nation that joined the EU in 2007 and was ranked 71st on Transparency International’s corruption list last year. Joining the bloc opened an enormous spigot of possible new EU funding for Bulgarian infrastructure projects or other programs designed to bring the nation up to EU standards — funds that were very attractive to both government officials and criminal networks.
Marinova’s final show was a program about Attila Biro, an investigative journalist with the Rise Project Romania and a colleague from the Bulgarian investigative site Bivol.bg, Dimitar Stoyanov. The two men were briefly detained Sept. 13 south of Sofia, the capital, as they investigated a tip that documents connected to suspected fraud involving EU funds were being shredded and destroyed.
Bivol.bg owner Assen Yordanov said he couldn’t directly link Marinova’s slaying to her work, but noted her Sept. 30 show tackled “our very sensitive investigation into the misuse of EU funds.”
Chief Public Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov announced Monday that authorities had no new leads on the motive for the slaying.